October blazed in hot across the Ozarks, leaving fall color trailing behind. Historically, fall color peaks mid-to-late October across the Ozark plateau. This year, color is lagging but it could soon change.

Drury University Horticulturist Robert Balek thinks the change could happen quickly, “I think mostly this week we’re going to see the yellow, yellow-green colors and the reds will be hinting. I think once the cool temperatures hit, it will be like flipping a switch.”

What is the process of leaves changing colors?

Despite the warmth, the process of the leaves changing colors has begun. With the longer nights, the leaves are creating an abscission layer. This happens when plants start detecting seasonal changes, including a reduction in chlorophyll. Once the chlorophyll breaks down, yellow pigments in the leaves start to show.

In order to see reds, anthocyanins have to be present. Not all trees have the pigment that causes yellow leaves to turn red. Red maples, red oaks and sumac produce anthocyanins, displaying the brightest reds and purples in the fall landscape.

Balek believes the red colors will start to show soon, “This week I’ve noticed some maples, some red maples are beginning to have a hint of red color with them. We’ll be watching those. With the rain coming up and the cooler temperatures, it may be overnight when we see some reds.”